TUPELO – When legendary Mississippi State radio announcer Jack Cristil was given a Tupelo High School letterman jacket on Thursday morning, his face slipped into a large smile.
Cristil, who is entering his 58th season as the voice of the Bulldogs, called radio for Tupelo High School football games for 30 years. But he had never worn a THS letterman jacket before Thursday, which the school proclaimed as Jack Cristil Day.
Nor had he spoken to the entire student body, except at the pep rallies he attended while he was announcing the school’s sporting events between 1955 and 1985.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to the entire student body of the senior high school at one time,” said Cristil, who lives in Tupelo. “Most people don’t have that opportunity. They’ve been very attentive.”
Cristil spoke to students Thursday about his career path and about his role in a book that all of the school’s students read during the summer, John Grisham’s “Bleachers.”
Interviewed on stage by THS freshman English teacher Sharon Rogers, Cristil spoke about his military service, how he began his career in radio, his 50-year celebration at MSU and his most memorable game at the school, a 1980 victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.
“He told us to keep our dreams alive,” said sophomore Zierra Long. “He never gave up on his dream of being a reporter. He inspired me to follow my dreams.”
Cristil, who received a key to the city from Mayor Jack Reed Jr., also spoke about Grisham’s book. He was featured as the voice of the fictional Spartans in the audio book version of the novel.
“I’m so glad that we have read the book and got Mr. Cristil to come,” Rogers said. “It has enhanced the learning experience.
“To see a live person who has participated in the making of the book makes the book come alive much more.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal